Post-adoptive parents are also prone to experience depression after the adoption. This has been recognized by researchers, and the causes are being explored. They may range from personal stressors such as infertility and lack of parenting skills, to the emotional residue of past treatments and failures to conceive, lack of support for the adoption, and physical or emotional stresses of raising children.
Post-adoptive depression symptoms do not vary much from typical depression. These may include the following:
- A feeling of sadness or dejection persisting throughout the day for most days
- Not feeling interested or motivated to initiate or carry out activities which used to be attractive earlier
- Weight changes due to eating too little or too much
- Sleep disturbances such as insomnia, hypersomnia, or interrupted sleep
- Agitated behavior or anger
- Withdrawal from social interactions with peers or family
- Feelings of being worthless
- Guilt and shame about one’s own life
- Not being able to take simple decisions
- Always feeling tired
- Constant tension headaches
- Aches and pains without an identifiable physical basis
- Lack of concentration and forgetfulness
- Feeling of being overwhelmed by parenting and family responsibilities
- The thought that life is passing one by while one’s time and energy is occupied by the new child almost exclusively
- Suicidal thoughts or fixation upon thoughts of death
What Might Cause Post-Adoptive Depression?
Biological birth is associated with many anxiety-inducing factors such as the wide fluctuation in hormone levels that accompanies pregnancy and delivery, the change in body shape and function, emotional liability, and physical stresses of childrearing. However, adoptive parents have their own set of stressors to face.
These include the past experience of infertility and its unsuccessful treatment in many cases, the feeling of lack of self-worth and social rejection, and the inflated expectation of a perfect family following adoption. Mistrust of the new child actually accepting the parents as his or her own parents, and a fear that bonding may not be perfectly achieved, add to these stresses.
These may be exacerbated by the long and demanding adoption process, which may be costly as well. The finding that all of society does not look upon an adopted child as kindly as the parents do may also contribute to the onset of depression, together with the normal stresses of parenting. Overall, however, adoptive women are not as depressed as postpartum mothers, when many measures are assessed.
Reviewed by Susha Cheriyedath, MSc